"We definitely wanted the three points so it's disappointing to have to settle for the draw. The team played well and were punished for some bad moments. On the other hand, we were a bit lucky with the penalty not given for handball," said Kerem Demirbay.
Head coach Gerardo Seoane opted for a 4-2-3-1 line-up this time with four changes to the starting eleven from this week's Champions League match at Club Brugge. Edmond Tapsoba, Exequiel Palacios, Kerem Demirbay and Adam Hlozek replaced Odilon Kossounou, Robert Andrich, Charles Aránguiz and Mitchel Bakker. Jonathan Tah made his 200th Bundesliga appearance in Black and Red in Berlin.
The visitors posed a threat on goal in the fourth minute. A cross from the left by Marvin Plattenhardt found Dodi Lukebakio in the six-yard box but, under pressure from Piero Hincapie, he put his header over the goal minded by Lukas Hradecky. Shortly after that, Leverkusen showed how they wanted to win at the Olympic Stadium: From a whipped-cross from Demirbay, Patrik Schick was completely unmarked for a header but the Hertha goalkeeper Christensen was able to make a reaction save with his arms (11') – Bayer 04 were very close to taking the lead.
Hertha Berlin showed aggression and determination from the start but the Werkself stood firm. When Lucas Tousart tried a shot to the near post Hradecky dived to turn the ball away for a corner (19'). A Demirbay shot after good work by Callum Hudson-Odoi flew over the top of the Berlin net (23'), and Tapsoba threw himself of the way of a shot from Serdar (24') at the other end. The better chances continued to come from the Werkself: A Hlozek volley from a Jeremie Frimpong cross produced another excellent save by Christensen (26'). Hertha again and again attempted to penetrate down the left with Plattenhardt and the lively Chidera Ejuke who had some exciting duels with Frimpong.
The best chance for Hertha Berlin up to that point came from an attack down the right: A cross from Lukebakio to the far post was met by Wilfried Kanga but he hit the woodwork from close range (37'). After that it was the turn of the Werkself again: Moussa Diaby put Demirbay through with a great ball but his effort with his weaker right foot went way over the bar from a very promising position (40'). Palacios then had to go off and he was replaced by Charles Aránguiz (41') – and he immediately made acquaintance with some uncompromising opponents with Serdar rightly being shown a yellow card for a foul on the Chilean (43'). The two sides went into half-time goalless in a very attractive and entertaining match..
Shortly after the restart, the ball was in the Leverkusen net but Serdar was clearly offside when he shot (47'). Two minutes later the ball was in the other goal and this time it counted – and it was a brilliant finish: Kerem Demirbay hit a free kick from 20 yards out over the Hertha wall into the top corner to give Bayer 04 the lead (49'). The visitors lead did not last long. A quick counter-attack from Hertha down the right saw good work from Kanga and Ejuke with Serdar able to level the scores when he was one-on-one with Hradecky – 1-1 (55).
Bayer 04 were not downhearted. Schick performed a great turn round Filip Uremovic in the box before shooting past Christensen but also just past the far post (63'). Then came the second substitution for the visitors with Nadiem Amiri coming on for Adam Hlozek (66 possibly). From a throw-in, and Amiri played the ball into his own half where there were no Leverkusen players and substitute Marco Richter, who had just come on, fired an unstoppable shot past Hradecky to give the hosts a 2-1 lead (74') that was completely avoidable.
Seoane made another three changes bringing on Odilon Kossounou, Robert Andrich and Sardar Azmoun for Frimpong, Demirbay and Hudson-Odoi (76’). A move that almost immediately paid off. Andrich crossed from the left, Azmoun let the ball run, and Schick converted to make it 2-2 (79'). There was a fortunate escape for Bayer 04 shortly after that when Hradecky first saved sensationally from Jean-Paul Boetius and the follow-up from Boetius hit Kossounou on the hand and then the post (82'). VAR did not intervene.
A battle royal ensued as neither side appeared to be satisfied with the draw as they pressed for the winner. In the fourth minute of added time, Bayer 04 had another great chance. Amiri put Schick through into the box but Marc Oliver Kempf intervened with the sliding tackle to prevent the Black and Reds taking a 3-2 lead. Then came the final whistle.
Bayer 04 now have two home games in a week. In the second group match in the Champions League, the Werkself entertain Atlético Madrid at the BayArena on Tuesday 13 September (kick-off: 21.00 CEST). That is followed by a Bundesliga fixture against Werder Bremen on Saturday 17 September at 15.30 CEST.
Hertha Berlin: Christensen – Kenny, Uremovic, Kempf, Plattenhardt – Tousart (Darida 90 + 3'), Sunjic, Serdar (Boetius 66') – Lukebakio (Dardai 81'), Kanga (Selke 81'), Ejuke (Richter 66')
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Frimpong (Kossounou 76'), Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie – Palacios (Aránguiz 41'), Demirbay (Andrich 76') – Diaby, Hlozek (Amiri 66'), Hudson-Odoi (Azmoun 74') – Schick
Goals: 0-1 Demirbay (49'), 1-1 Serdar (55'), 2-1 Richter (74'), 2-2 Schick (79')
Referee: Benjamin Brand (Unterspiesheim)
Bookded: Serdar, Sunjic, Selke – Aránguiz
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